The temperature fell all across the southeast on Saturday night, but nevertheless, the Charlotte 49ers men’s soccer team continued their hot streak. An offensive onslaught and a hat-trick performance by senior Brandt Bronico propelled the Niners to a 5-0 win over the UAB Blazers (6-6-3, C-USA 2-3-1).
The game was physical and chippy from the start, as both teams traded fouls. UAB’s Tyler Tarnue picked up a yellow card in the seventh minute, and Bronico attempted a shot from 20 yards out that was blocked. However, he recovered the offensive rebound and scored three seconds later, giving the Niners (9-2-1, C-USA 4-1-0)the early lead.
In the 32nd minute, Maclean Holbrook subbed into the game, quickly intercepted a UAB pass and was determined to capitalize on the turnover. Holbrook rifled in a score from about 18 yards out, adding to the Charlotte lead and giving them the momentum they needed headed into the half. The Blazers continued to be aggressive, firing a few shots before the horn, but goalkeeper Elliot Panicco kept UAB at bay.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were uneventful, but that soon changed. After another quick yellow card, UAB committed two more costly fouls, that last of which occurred in the box. Without hesitation, Bronico stepped up to the box and knocked in another score, his second of the night and the team’s third.
Less than four minutes later, UAB was called for another illegal tackle in the box, setting up Bronico’s third and final score. The goal gave Bronico a hat trick and sent the Charlotte faithful into a frenzy.
“Yeah, you know I’m starting to hit form and it was tough at the beginning of the season because I was getting the assists but I wasn’t getting the goals; now the goals are starting to fall. Credit to my teammates for the penalty kicks, but a goal’s a goal, and I’m happy with what I can get,” Bronico said in his postgame presser.
Even with a four-goal lead, the Charlotte strikers never let up. In the 75th minute, UAB made a goalie change, putting Juliam Mehl in net. The Niners made sure to capitalize. In the 82nd minute, Mehl committed a costly turnover while trying to pass to his defenseman. Charlotte’s Marco Sunol-Rojas collected the turnover, bolted to the net and quickly scooted the ball past Mehl’s outstretched hands, providing the final score margin.
Afterwards, Charlotte Coach Kevin Langan praised his defense.
“The back four and Elliot are doing great, but as I keep saying, it’s a whole team performance. When we score goals, it tends to be from good passing and defenders joining in, and when we keep clean sheets, it starts from the front line and goes back. It gives us confidence and we know we don’t have to score five, six, seven goals to win in a game.”
Charlotte hits the field again at South Carolina on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Niners will look to overtake the Gamecocks, who are first in the conference by one point.